Black Children Who Live in Housing Projects More Likely to Smoke

Easy access to tobacco and stressful and traumatic environment may contribute to lighting up.

Posted: 07/17/2012 12:32 PM EDT

Here’s an alarming trend in smoking habits and African-American youth: Black children living in housing project communities are more likely to smoke cigarettes than children who don't, say researchers from the University of Missouri in St. Louis.

Mansoo Yu, an assistant professor of social work and public health, and a team of researchers, surveyed 518 African-American young people, ages 11 to 20, who lived in public housing in three large U.S. cities. And they found that these same children were 2.3 times more likely to smoke tobacco than their counterparts who did not live in housing project communities.

So what about the community puts them more at risk?

According to a university press statement, Yu suggests that it’s the stressful and traumatic environment along with easy access to tobacco that may make these children more vulnerable to lighting up.

Youths living in public housing might be more likely to be fearful, live around crime problems, have poorer social relationships and have higher levels of psychological strain. These factors could contribute to the increased rates of tobacco use, Yu said.

“Smoking cessation programs for young African Americans living in public housing communities should focus on reversing their positive attitudes toward tobacco use,” Yu said. “In addition, programs should help address the youths’ depressive symptoms and keep them from getting involved in delinquent behaviors.”

Researchers suggest that health experts and advocates create anti-smoking prevention interventions for these children early on.

“Early interventions are critical for these individuals since the likelihood of being exposed to risky behaviors dramatically increases as the children age,” Yu said. “In public housing communities, adolescents may have easier access to drugs and social activities where drugs are used.”

Smoking is a serious problem in our community —  in and out of housing projects — that comes with many health consequences. According to the American Lung Association, Black Americans account for 12 percent of the 46 million adult smokers in the U.S. And while Blacks smoke less than whites, African-Americans are more likely to die of lung cancer.

And unfortunately, it's harder for Blacks to quit smoking.

Last November, reported a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study that found while 59 percent of Black smokers tried to quit, only 3.3 percent actually succeeded — the lowest success rate among all races and ethnicities.

To learn more about smoking and how to quit go here.

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